HSE recruitment freeze threatens to put wedding plans on ice

THE much publicised health service staff shortages are not just hitting hospital and community care services — they are also affecting weddings.

According to IMPACT trade union, civil marriages in Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow could fall victim to the HSE employment embargo from July 1 because management has failed to recruit the staff needed to ensure marriages in locations outside registrars’ offices can go ahead.

The HSE is responsible for civil registration in this country.

“The introduction of off- site wedding services in the east was postponed to July 1 to enable the recruitment of extra staff, which the HSE has agreed are necessary to expand the service,” said IMPACT.

“But no recruitment has happened, and a staff shortfall of almost 15% means staff may have to prioritise on-site weddings to minimise the numbers of disappointed brides and grooms.

“Management has admitted there is a shortfall of 9.5 civil registration staff out of an agreed compliment of 63.5. But off-site civil marriages in Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow represent a significant extra demand on staff time. This is because registrars have to travel to and from locations in Dublin traffic.”

The union said approximately 200 applications for off-site weddings have already been approved for the period after July 1. Staff in the service said they will do all they can to ensure all the weddings go ahead, but IMPACT warned some may be in jeopardy.

IMPACT official Stephen O’Neill said: “This is solely and exclusively about staffing. We are not taking industrial action or seeking anything for our members. We are simply saying that planned services are in jeopardy unless the agreed and necessary numbers of staff are in place.”

The HSE refuted the union’s claims. Referring to the agreement with IMPACT in October 2007 it said: “As part of that agreement it was decided that a staffing level of 58.5 would be reached by July 2008, with the remaining posts being phased in throughout the rest of the year. As of May 30, a staffing level of 55.5 had been achieved and the HSE is satisfied that arrangements are in train to achieve the agreed interim target of 58.5 in the coming weeks,” it said.

“On this basis we are confident that we can meet all our commitments to the public, staff and unions.”

Meanwhile IMPACT has agreed to attend negotiations on the issues which have forced 28,000 of its health professional members to engage in industrial action. The union said its industrial action over staffing levels, which has so far lasted three weeks, will remain in place until tangible improvements emerge.


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